10 Worst-Selling Games in Major Franchises
Here at TripleJump, we love it when games sell well. It means that the industry is healthy, and that talented developers will have the funds and freedom to make even more games, and more games means more fun. It also means less money, sleep, socialising, and exercise, but who cares?!
Over the course of the industry’s history, some of the most prominent franchises have moved absurd numbers, but there are always those black sheep that didn’t quite fly off the shelves as quickly as expected. They all probably still made the kind of money that I can only dream of, but for whatever reason, they sit at the bottom of their particular franchise’s sales charts, and it’s those titles that we’re looking at for today’s list.
For the sake of simplicity, we’re not including remakes, collections, or digital-only games, mainly due to incomplete sales data. Also, for some entries we’ve been forced to omit spin-offs and stick to the mainline games in the series, but we’ll point that out when we get there.
Right, let’s look at some games that sold worse than other games in their franchise. Then you can go out and buy them in droves just to make this video obsolete.
I’m Peter from TripleJump, and here are 10 Worst-Selling Games in Major Franchises.
10. Pokémon – Pokémon Crystal – 6.39m
We’re kicking off our list with a venerable franchise that shows absolutely no signs of slowing down, even if some of its titles haven’t sold as well as others. Due to incomplete sales data on many of the series’ more obscure or region-locked spin-offs, we’re looking at the mainline Pokémon games for this entry, and let me be the first to tell you right now, the lowest-selling mainline Pokémon game still did numbers that many franchises could only dream of.
Pokémon Crystal was originally released for the Game Boy Color in Japan in the year 2000. It more-or-less follows the same story as its predecessors, Pokémon Gold and Silver, but legendary beast, Suicune, plays a more prominent role in the proceedings. Gold and Silver’s gameplay is also carried over, but a few new features have been added, including allowing players to choose the gender of their character for the first time. I guess Game Freak finally figured out that girls play games, too.
Anyway, as previously mentioned, Pokémon Crystal’s sales figures were still nothing to sniff at, with over 6 million units shifted worldwide. That makes it the highest-selling lowest-selling game on our list, by the way, and that is a really strange accolade. Congratulations, I guess?
9. Super Smash Bros. – Super Smash Bros. for Wii U – 5.38m
Back in the late 90’s, someone at Nintendo thought it would be cool if all of their most prominent mascot characters beat each other up, and the Super Smash Bros. series was born. The original was released in 1999 for the N64, and gave fans the hitherto unheard-of opportunity to play as the likes of Mario, Link, Samus, and Kirby in beautifully chaotic but supremely balanced free-for-all combat. This original title sold over 5.5 million copies, and set the stage for some far more impressive sales performances to come, with the series as a whole reportedly shifting over 70 million units.
In 2014, Nintendo released two versions of Super Smash Bros.; one for the 3DS, which did well, and one for the Wii U, which … did as well as it could, considering what it was up against.
As we all know, Nintendo’s Wii U failed to capture the interest of the wider gaming public. It shifted around 13 million units worldwide, which, when compared to the Wii’s 101 million and the Switch’s 117 million and counting, is but a drop in the ocean. Super Smash Bros. For the Wii U was still a great entry into the franchise, but like a Mewtwo accidentally falling off of Brinstar Depths, it was let down by its platform.
8. Final Fantasy – Final Fantasy XI 1.77m
For the same reasons stated in the Pokémon entry, we’re sticking to the mainline Final Fantasy games for this dip into the highs and lows of Square’s flagship series. The franchise that reportedly dragged the publisher out of the jaws of looming bankruptcy, Final Fantasy has gone from strength to strength since its 1987 debut, and the worst-selling mainline game in the series still made the publisher plenty of gil.
Reportedly selling just under 2 million copies, 2002’s Final Fantasy XI was a huge departure for the series. This early-embracer of the MMO craze tried to entice players to explore its world alongside like-minded adventurers, and incorporated many familiar Final Fantasy tropes into an online, multiplayer setting.
Successful despite its relatively low sales, Final Fantasy XI was quietly paving the way for 2010’s Final Fantasy XIV . This second bite of the online cherry initially threatened to replace its predecessor as the lowest-selling game in the franchise, but the release of 2013’s A Realm Reborn saw its sales soar to a cool 10 million and counting, making it more successful than many of the franchise’s single player offerings.
Final Fantasy XI took that first, scary step though, and will be remembered as a pioneer, despite sitting at the bottom of the Final Fantasy sales pile.
7. Uncharted – Uncharted: Golden Abyss – 1.62m
Naughty Dog’s renowned Uncharted series takes players on globe-trotting escapades filled with devious traps, priceless treasures, unscrupulous mercenaries, and the occasional supernatural entity. Channelling the likes of Indiana Jones and Tomb Raider, Nathan Drake’s escapades have captured the imaginations of armchair adventurers since 2007, when Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune was released on the PS3.
Throughout its history, the swashbuckling series has never been short of eager customers, and the franchise as a whole has reportedly shifted almost 45 million units since its inception. That’s a lot of treasure hunting, but which title contributed the least to this dizzying number? Well, it was Nathan Drake’s handheld escapade, Uncharted: Golden Abyss for the Vita.
Praised for its great graphics, interesting story, and gameplay that translated well from the its home console roots, Uncharted: Golden Abyss delivered on quality, even if some observers were displeased with the touch screen implementation. Alas, likely due to the Vita’s limited success, it still lagged behind the next worst-selling Uncharted game by around 750,000 units; 2017’s Uncharted 4 expansion-turned-full-release, Uncharted: Lost Legacy.
It’s a shame, because the game is great, and we think that hanging out with a pocket-sized Nathan Drake sounds like a wonderful way to spend a few evenings.
6. God of War – God of War: Ghost of Sparta – 1.20m
Angry dad, Kratos, has a storied history of brutalising figures in Greek and Norse mythology, and us gamers have been with him every step of the way. The original trilogy cemented the series’ legendary status, and the franchise’s most recent addition, God of War: Ragnarok, is a bona fide blockbuster that has the stellar sales performance of the 2018 reboot in its sights.
Once again, we have to look to the handheld world to see which title in the series raked in the least cash. God of War: Chains of Olympus and its sequel Ghost of Sparta were originally released on PSP, and while the former amassed a reported 3 million in sales, the latter only just topped a million, making it Kratos’ least-played adventure.
Released in 2010, Ghost of Sparta reviewed well, and was particularly praised for its spectacular visuals. It also gave players their sole chance to interact with Deimos , Kratos’ brother, and even team up with him to take on creepy death god, Thanatos, but none of this could save it from becoming the lowest selling game in the series.
I know Kratos has mellowed these days, but it’s best not to mention Ghost of Sparta’s performance to him. Or Deimos, for that matter. Or anything, really. Just … just leave him alone.
5. Forza – Forza Motorsport 6 – 1m
Microsoft’s most prominent racing game franchise is a force to be reckoned with in the driving game world. The series has seen consistent, high-quality titles released almost yearly, and with the birth of Forza Horizon in 2012 it split into two distinct camps; the fun-loving, open-world Horizon games, and the more serious, track-based Motorsport titles.
The original Forza Horizon was not the franchise’s lowest-selling entry, however, despite being a tentative step in a new direction. Neither was the original Forza Motorsport. It’s not even one of the more recent Forza games such as Horizon 5, whose sales would have been affected by the soaring popularity of Game Pass.
Nope, 2015’s Forza Motorsport 6 takes this particular dubious honour, just about shipping one million copies. It’s not quite clear why, as it was a huge improvement over Forza Motorsport 5, which was very light in content compared to what series fans had been used to. Also, Forza Motorsport 7 managed to eclipse its sales, so series fatigue and the growing popularity of Game Pass can’t really be blamed, either.
It was released in the same year as Rocket League though, so it was probably because you can’t leap around and smash into giant balls. Mystery solved.
4. The Legend of Zelda – The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures – 0.81m
The Legend of Zelda is one of the most beloved and respected franchises of all time, but even with masterpieces like Breath of the Wild and Ocarina of Time in its library, the series has been unable to maintain a consistent level of sales throughout its lifespan. Interestingly, the game at the bottom end of the Zelda sales chart represents Nintendo trying to get players to search for rupees and heart pieces with their friends.
The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures was released on the GameCube in 2004. This multiplayer-focused title presents traditional Zelda gameplay tweaked to host up to four players, and was based on the Four Swords mode included in the GBA version of A Link to the Past. The main game mode was a cooperative, episodic campaign known as “Hyrulean Adventure”, but a competitive “Shadow Battle” mode was also included.
Unfortunately, to access all of this multiplayer fairy fun, each player needed a GBA and a Link Cable, essentially shutting out all but the most dedicated Nintendo fans from what was undoubtedly a high-quality gaming experience. Four GBAs would set you back a lot of rupees in 2004, though, and most of us hadn’t found the adult’s wallet yet.
3. Halo – Halo Wars 2 – 0.51m
In the not-so-distant past, the Halo series was setting records for sales in video games, with Halo 3 sitting on top of the pile, reportedly amassing almost 15 million copies sold. Even the least-successful Halo FPS, the narrative-driven Halo 3 spin-off, Halo 3: ODST, managed to shift around 3 million copies. Perhaps unsurprisingly, though, the lowest-selling titles in the franchise’s history are its forays into different genres.
Released in 2017, real-time strategy, Halo Wars 2, was a sequel to 2009’s Halo Wars. While Microsoft used the expertise of Age of Empires developers, Ensemble Studios, on the original, for Halo Wars 2 they got Creative Assembly involved. These guys are most famous for the Total War series of strategy games, and definitely know their stuff when it comes to top-down battlefields.
Despite reviewing well and expanding on its predecessor, Halo Wars 2 failed to match the original title’s sales. While the Halo franchise has certainly faded in prominence over the years, the fact that many fans could pick up the game for free on Game Pass was probably the biggest reason why the title didn’t perform well at retail.
Real Halo fans would buy an extra copy even if they already had it for free, you know.
2. Grand Theft Auto – Grand Theft Auto Advance – 0.24m
The Grand Theft Auto series has shifted hundreds of millions of copies, enthralling fans with its cinematic moments, open-world mayhem, great visuals, and lauded soundtracks since its humble, 2D beginnings. Things have moved on a lot since then, and the series has only gotten stronger, with more recent titles adding online multiplayer modes to keep players’ thumbs and wallets occupied while they wait impatiently for the next instalment.
To find the franchise’s lowest points you have to look at its handheld offerings. Most of these still sold very well, particularly on the PSP, with games like GTA: Liberty City Stories managing to shift almost 8 million copies. GTA: Chinatown Wars for the DS underperformed for a Grand Theft Auto game, especially considering its status as the best-reviewed game on that console, but it’s still not at the bottom of the list.
No, the lowest-selling game in the GTA franchise is also its lowest-rated. Grand Theft Auto Advance for the GBA sits on a 68% Metacritic average and looks, sounds, and plays like a chopped-down version of the 1997 original. It shifted only a quarter of a million copies, which is absolutely shocking compared to the rest of the series.
Don’t worry, though. Despite its lack of success on Nintendo handhelds, the franchise has just about managed to stay afloat.
1. Fallout – Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel – 0.12m
Since 1997, the Fallout series has gone from a popular but somewhat niche RPG series, to a near-forgotten curio, to one of gaming’s foremost behemoth franchises. Unsurprisingly, its entry into this list comes from that curio period, in the irradiated no-man’s land between Fallout 2 and Fallout 3. Here you’ll find the genre-shifted console debut, Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel, the game that languishes at the bottom of the Fallout series sales chart.
Coming six years after the success of Fallout 2 on PC, Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel was released in 2004 for Xbox and PS2, and binned the franchise’s turn-based roots in favour of a more action-orientated combat style. It also got rid of the open-world exploration and streamlined or changed many of the other aspects that made the series unique. Basically, it was too much of a change to entice fans of the older games, and didn’t really stand out enough to win over any new fans.
Reviewers derided its repetitive gameplay and bland maze-like environments, and many noted that the game went needlessly overboard with its incessant swearing. Unnecessary curse words aside, the only way Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel managed to live up to its respected name was by falling out of the sales charts.